October 4, 2004

Women's Soccer Competes against its Past

Sept. 29, 2004

By Alison Fleck
The Santa Clara Sports Writer

Historically one of the most successful teams at Santa Clara, the women's soccer team is usually ranked first or second in the nation.

However, because of serious injuries and self-imposed pressure to win, they've fallen to No. 10 nationally.

"Anytime you are successful at anything, you become a victim of your own success," Coach Jerry Smith said. He explained that when student athletes choose to come to Santa Clara, part of their decision is accepting the challenge to live up to previous seasons.

"We don't feel pressure from the university to win," Jerry Smith said. "We have a self-imposed pressure. Our coaches and our players have a sense of living up to the traditions of this program, which include advancing to the tournament and being successful."

Sophomore forward Bonnie Bowman agreed, saying the pressure is more encouraging and motivational rather than threatening.

Senior captain and midfielder Leslie Osborne explained the rankings mean more to the Bronco fans than the team itself. Osborne further said that the team is really focusing on just playing well, scoring goals and increasing confidence levels.

Sophomore midfielder Marian Dalmy explained how her coach always tells the team to play as the underdog since every team is out to get them.

"Jerry (Smith) tells us that he doesn't care about the rankings," Dalmy said. "If you're No. 25, I still want you to play as if you're No. 1," she recalls him saying.

Although some fans criticize the team's 6-2-1 record, assistant coach Mike Smith feels the team is still strong and doing better than it has in the past couple of years.

"We currently have a much better record this year than we did last year at this stage, which was 3-3-3," Mike Smith said. "And we've even lost our senior captain and most valuable defensive player Jessica Ballweg with a broken leg and another central defender to a strained PCL knee injury."

Losing these central defenders within the first week of the season does have an impact, but coaches have made adjustments and rearranged players.

"The beginning of the season was used to experiment and to see who is going to play where, so having an edgy start was bound to happen," Sophomore midfielder Tiffany Roberts said. "But I think our season is going to improve so that we peak at the right time, which is later in the season and during the Final Four."

At the start of the season, the Broncos were ranked No. 2., but after tying their first match against No. 22 Cal Poly and losing to both Notre Dame and unranked Rutgers, the Broncos fell to No. 11.

In their statistics, however, the Broncos have out-shot, out-scored and have had more assists than all of their opponents.

On Sept. 12, the Broncos made a turn-around by defeating Rhode Island 6-0. Since then, the Broncos have won their past five games.

Junior defender Catherine Sigler feels confident that the team is moving in the right direction.

"Everyday in practice it's a fullout battle," Sigler said. "When we connect the ball, we're unbelievable. We just need to focus on ourselves, calm down and get comfortable passing the ball because that is our great strength."

The team traveled to Costa Rica in the preseason to bond and play internationally. The players admit feeling closer this year.

"We are playing for each other more because we have become closer off the field as well," Sophomore Tina Estrada said. "It has gotten a lot better over the years and it reflects on the field. I have no doubt that we can advance to the Final Four. We have the potential to win it all this year, meaning yes, we are going to make it to the championship game."

It won't be easy with difficult games ahead, including two against Top-10 ranked teams, University of California at Berkeley and University of California at Los Angeles.

"There are 300 D-1 teams that have targeted Santa Clara," Jerry Smith said. "I am happy with the direction we are taking and believe the team will advance to the Final Four if they continue to work hard."